Saturday the 20th of June
Everyone was feeling the aftermath of our fast paced schedule. My friends were trying to get their two seconds of sleep on the train from our accommodation to Rome where we had a full itinerary of walking tours and sight seeing. I had woken up with awful chest pain and could hear the hoarse coughing of the campers around me. We were adding to each other’s exhaustion and making one another sick – thankfully it was bearable as long as I didn’t cough or laugh or breathe.
We had an exciting day coming up so I would have to toughen up in order to make the most of our first stop: Vatican City. It was incredible to think that by stepping through the marble arch labeled Maei Vaticani we were entering a sovereign nation – a whole other country – with just a simple footstep. Approximately 800 people resided here working in religious roles or in maintenance of the terracotta-coloured premise that was laced with leaf gold decoration and ribbons of ivory leaves on blue tiles. This was the smallest independent state ruled by the pope whom appeared to the public every Sunday to give a morning service. From the Vatican Museum we were lead to the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo was responsible for the breathtaking artwork that covered its surface depicting the stories of genesis. It took a total of fifteen years to create and looked stunning despite the multiple problems that occurred because an architect was commissioned to do the paintwork.
The legend concerning the origins of Rome revolves around two abandoned brothers named Romulus and Remus. When they returned to the country they weren’t happy they’d been left behind so murdered their parents in their rise to rule. As is clear by the resulting name Rome, Romulus succeeded to power. The ruins in which we resided had once been equivalent to an ancient day Wall Street where currency rates were discussed and displayed. The city centre also had temples and the basilica of justice to satisfy the daily needs of the citizens. The saying ‘all roads to Rome’ stems from the design of the city centre so we turned in the opposite direction heading for the entertainment quarter. The colosseum was a large amphitheatre built for propaganda – the emperor had to impress his people to win their support. As we entered the ancient landmark, I was surprised by the sudden tick I felt on my skin. And another. And another! Fat water droplets pelted from the dark clouds above making dark specs appear in the sand. Many of the tourers hid beneath their pamphlets or rushed into the dry. Large cracks of thunder made everyone jump. Wet feet while on the verge of a cold is a dangerous combination so it was time to head home.
That evening we had a party at the campsite with the theme ‘I ❤︎ ROMA’. Everyone sported shirts with this slogan and passed around a marker to write a memorandum for each other. We drank during happy hour and danced all night! Pete and Mitch and I went round for round with shots and cocktails to follow; we reserved no shame as the three of us alone occupied the dance floor with its stage and turning poles. In due time, we were joined by the rest of our tourers and those partaking on other Contiki Trips whom we had encountered at previous stopovers. I would have loved to dance into the night and was close to doing so had they not started playing Backstreet Boys and other artists whom were narrowly before my time. I’m so glad I have had the chance to meet all these party people – it has been great to spend time together exploring the world and I am sure I have made friends that will keep in contact despite our distanced displacement for years to come.